These Are the Best Shoes To Wear for the Rowing Machine, According to Row Instructors

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No matter where you’re at in your rowing journey, you’re bound to hear the same verbiage time and time again when it comes to how to use a rowing machine. Particularly, that you should push from your legs and lean back with your core before ever using your arms to overtake the movement. (Why do you think Orangetheory coaches chant “Legs, Core, Arms” repeatedly through the row block?) Anyway, while form is regularly reinstated, something that’s not discussed quite as much is how your shoes play into your form. Getting the right shoes for the rower important so that you optimize your rowing experience.

Experts In This Article
  • Andy Hoang, founder and CEO of Aviron
  • Dani Hansen, two-time paralympic silver medalist for Team USA and lead athlete at Hydrow
  • Katie Wang, rowing instructor for Peloton

After all, with the wrong shoes, your feet won’t feel secure in the foot cradle, and discomfort can lead to poor form—and could even cause your foot to fully slip out mid-row. While many athletic shoes exist, few are specifically categorized as shoes for rowing. As such, we chatted with a few pros to determine what makes an ideal silhouette for shoes for indoor rowing. With their help, we came up with the 10 best shoes for rowing. Find out what they are, below.

Best rowing shoes, at a glance:

Ready to get a pair for yourself? Keep reading to uncover the best rowing shoes of 2023.

Best overall

Nike Metcon 8 — $135.00

Sizes available: 5-15

The Nike Metcon 8 may be marketed as a general women’s training shoe, but according to Andy Hoang, an avid rower and the founder and CEO of Aviron, they’re the best Nike rowing shoes. “The Metcon is a great rowing shoe with a comfortable heel design that fits well on the foot-cradle,” he explains. “It has an ideal sole firmness, is flexible and durable, breathable, and has a flat profile for maximum force on the foot plate.”

While he recommends the Nike Metcon 8, he also applauds the Nike Metcon 2 (though, those are notably harder to find given they’re much older).

Colors: (12, plus option to design it yourself)


Best for cross-training

Reebok Nano X2 — $135.00

Sizes available: 5-12

The Reebok Nano X2 is a crossfit-specific training shoe but according to Hoang, it’s a great shoe for rowing, too. (In fact, it’s one of the shoes we tested and loved for Orangetheory.) “The design of these shoes is excellent and they offer a good combination of comfort and performance,” he says. “They were specifically created for crossfit enthusiasts, but they are also suitable for individuals who engage in a variety of physical activities.”

Hoang isn’t the only proponent of these sneaks, though. Dani Hansen, Hydrow Lead Athlete, and two-time Paralympic silver medalist for Team USA, is, too. “The Reebok weight trainers and cross trainers are all really good,” she says, noting that she’s a big fan of the Nano X1s. “I can really feel my power translate to the footplate when I wear these, and I’m a very big fan. They’re pretty lightweight, flat, and low cushion which is awesome. I also love the way they look.”

A word to the wise? Get hands-on to break them in. “These shoes are on the stiffer side so I recommend breaking them in a bit by bending them with your hands and wearing them to move around in before a hard workout,” Hansen says.

Colors: 3

Best budget

Converse Chuck Taylor Low Top — $60.00

Sizes available: 5-11

Another pair of shoes that both Hoang and Hansen recommend for rowing? The classic Converse Chuck Taylor Low Top. “The classic Converse Chuck Taylor Low Tops are worth mentioning for indoor rowers due to their affordable price and somewhat suitable design for rowing,” Hoang says. “It might take a little longer to break Chucks in but once you get them to flex where you want them to [they can be] perfect,” Hansen adds.

The downside is that, since they’re not athletic shoes, they lack breathability. “They are also prone to wear out quickly due to the flexion required in rowing,” Hoang admits. Still, for the price, and the rower-friendly silhouette, the pros assure us that they remain a great option. “They’re a flat, non-existent cushion, flexible, lightweight, low-top option, which is very nice,” Hansen says. “Get yourself a cute lil’ pair of these and watch your split drop. You’re welcome.”

Colors: Black, White (more options available through Converse’s site)

Best splurge

APL TechLoom Tracer — $250.00

Sizes available: 5-11

One scroll through Instagram or TikTok and you’re bound to see dozens of celebrities and influencers rocking APLs. The APL TechLoom Tracer is the brand’s beloved training shoe, complete with flat soles, a breathable upper, and a padded heel collar, all of which make them incredibly comfortable rowing shoes. Best of all? They’re pretty much the most stylish rowing shoes to exist. One more thing: While we’ve dubbed them the best splurge rowing shoe, they’re also the best for color lovers, as they’re sold in more colors than any other shoe on this list by a long shot.

Colors: 19

Best multi-use

Lululemon Chargefeel — $138.00

Sizes available: 5-12

While cross-training shoes are designed for a multitude of movements, most lack the cushion and flexibility required for running. That’s why the Lululemon Chargefeel stands out. The multi-purpose shoe has a flat (though, comfortably cushioned) sole that makes it work well for activities like rowing, as well as walking, jogging, and running. If you ask me, they’re the most comfortable sneakers ever (and I’ve tried many, many athletic shoes as part of my job). What’s more, since they’re narrow, they fit exceptionally well in rower foot cradles, so you can expect a smooth, secure, powerful row each and every time.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that these sneaks are made with fabric uppers that feel similar to the brand’s Align leggings, so it’s possible that dirty rower straps could easily leave marks on them. If that happens, the brand recommends spot cleaning them (and discourages tossing them in the wash).

Colors: 6

Best style variety

No Bull Trainer — $129.00

Sizes available: 5-11

The No Bull Trainer is another shoe that Hansen and Hoang both recommend. “They’re soft, flat, and low cushion,” Hansen says, emphasizing the fact that they’re sold in low, mid, and high-top silhouettes. “You really couldn’t go wrong if you chose from any of their low-top trainers.” The reason she specifically recommends the low-top option is so that your feet and ankles can move comfortably through the motions of each row.

While Hoang applauds the No Bull Trainer, he admits that the soles start off a bit stiff, so you may want to bend and break them in before rowing in them.

Colors: 14+

Best feel

Nike Womens Free RN Flyknit 2018 — $70.00

Sizes available: 5-12

Considering Nike has so many silhouettes, it’s no surprise that more than one of their styles is a top-pick for rowers. According to Hansen, the Nike Free RN Flyknits are flexible, lightweight, flat, and have low cushion, all of which contribute to an ideal rowing experience. “It feels like I have nothing on my feet when I’m wearing them—they’re super lightweight,” she adds.

Colors: 5

Best hands-free

Kizik Lima — $109.00

Sizes available: 6-13

If you’re in the market for a more convenient silhouette, the Kizik Lima shoes are a great option. Designed with a flat sole, breathable mesh upper, and padded heel collar, these sneakers make for a very comfortable rowing experience. Most notably, though, they’re designed to be put on without having to use your hands. The unique heel design lets wearers step directly into the shoe with ease.

Colors: 13

Best fit for women

Rykä No Limit Training Shoe — $130.00

Sizes available: 5-12

Rykä is a shoe brand created specifically for women. Each pair of shoes is designed with the brand’s innovative technology “based on the ‘Q ANGLE,’ the inside angle of the quadriceps muscle that is 3 to 4 percent greater in women than men, which impacts a woman’s stance and weight distribution on her feet.” While the brand has a variety of walking, running, cross-training, hiking, and dance shoes, the No Limit Training Shoe is best for rowing thanks to its flatter sole and lower drop, which allows wearers to have a stronger, more connected push-back while rowing.

Colors: 3

Best barefoot feel

WHITIN Women's Barefoot & Minimalist Shoe — $43.00

Sizes available: 5.5-11

Here’s the kicker: both Hoang and Hansen say that rowing barefoot is an option. “This might come as a surprise, but my all-time favorite footwear for working out on a rowing machine is no footwear at all,” Hansen says. “Yes, it can start off uncomfortable to be barefoot but once you get used to it you will start to notice how much that little extra amount of power that goes straight into the footboard adds to your overall speed,” she explains. “If you want to try this out, I recommend a good 10 to 20 minutes at a low intensity at first. Make sure your footplate is adjusted to your comfort and put some chalk on your heels to keep the heel cups from slipping. Have a great workout!”

Not convinced? Hoang says that experienced home rowers often prefer rowing barefoot. “The human foot is actually well-suited for rowing and can be just as comfortable as using shoes if you use tape to protect your heel from rubbing against the foot cradle,” he explains.

If you’re not ready to go barefoot, however, barefoot-esque shoes exist for a similar feel. The WHITIN Women’s Barefoot & Minimalist Shoe is beloved by thousands of Amazon shoppers for its zero-drop sole, wide toe box, and breathable design.

Colors: 13

What to look for when shopping for rowing shoes

When shopping for the best shoes for Hydrow (or the Peloton Rower, Aviron Rower, or NordicTrack Rower), there are a few key characteristics you’ll want to keep in mind.

“When it comes to rowing, you're aiming for thin-soled shoes,” says Peloton row instructor Katie Wang. “Avoid the bouncy cushioned shoes you might gravitate towards on the tread—instead you can go for the classics, like my personal favorite, Converse. When in doubt, keep it low, keep it light, and get explosive in that drive.”

In general, Hansen says that prioritizing weightlifting shoes (which are known for being flat and firm) is a good starting point when searching for shoes for rowing. “We want all of your watts/power to go straight into the footplate so that you can get the most out of each stroke and so that you’re not wasting any effort,” she explains. “We don’t want your watts being absorbed by a bunch of cushion in your shoes.”

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